GHOSTS OF THE PRAIRIE
SPIRITS OF THE RUEBEL HOTEL
Although Grafton, Illinois boasts a handful of ghost stories, the most famous haunted site is the Ruebel Hotel. A man named Michael Ruebel built the establishment in 1884 and when it opened, it was the largest commercial hotel in Jersey County. It had 32 rooms with a bath house in the back and mainly played host to river travelers. Room rates at the time were $1.00 per day, while weekly rooms could be had for a rate of $8.00 and included three meals a day.
The hotel also boasted the finest saloon in town, at a time when 26 saloons operated in Grafton. Needless to say, this was a rowdy place to be but with a population made up of mainly Irish and German quarry workers, who were used to brawling and drinking contests, this number of saloons became a necessity. Because of its reputation on the river, the hotel was also frequently visited by river travelers and steamboat operators, further adding to the colorful atmosphere. The hotel thrived until 1912, when it was damaged by fire. It was quickly rebuilt however, this time adding a restaurant on the first floor and a dance hall on the second. During World War II, the dance hall was turned into quarters for 30 Coast Guard men, who were stationed in Grafton to provide protection for the river traffic.
As time went on, the rest of the world passed Grafton by. After two World Wars, the Great Depression, floods, the end of the steamboat era and the closing of the local rail lines, the town slowly withered. And the Ruebel Hotel died along with it. By the 1980ís, the building had become an abandoned derelict, its heyday long forgotten. Then, in 1996, the hotel was purchased by the Jeff Lorton family, who completely restored the place and opened it for business in spring of 1997.
But what of the ghosts?
Yes, according to some staff members and a number of guests who have stayed here, the hotel is haunted. While most of the ghosts here are more than likely just residual images from the past, there does seem to be at least one with a personality, although just who she may be is unknown.
Hotels, especially older ones, are always ripe for a haunting. Literally hundreds of people pass through a hotel in any given year and are bound to leave a little piece of themselves behind. With a hotel like the Ruebel, which dates back more than 100 years, there have been thousands of people who have stayed here.
Shortly after the Ruebel opened again, at least three guests and a hotel housekeeper reported encountering a ghost in the building. In April of 1997, the three overnight guests told the owners the next morning they had spoken to the ghost of a little girl named ďAbigailĒ. Since then, a number of other folks who have spent the night in the hotel say they too have seen the young girl in the upstairs hallway and at the top of the stairway to the second floor.
"As many years as this place has been around, Iím sure that someone has died here, but none of us have seen anything," said Jeff Lorton in a 1997 newspaper interview. "I figure if I donít bother them, they wonít bother me."
(C) Copyright 2002 by Troy Taylor. All Rights Reserved.
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